Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some frequently asked questions for those seeking to learn more about diabetes and the lifestyle that accompanies it.
Diabetes is confusing, even for diabetics, so if you have any unanswered questions, send them here!
Is type 1 diabetes (T1D) genetic?
Type 1 diabetes is genetic. Though, you can be born with type 1 diabetes, it is not always the case. Type 1 diabetes used to be exclusively referred to as “Juvenile Diabetes” because it was mostly diagnosed in children ages 6-15 years. More cases outside of this age range have become more common which is why it is now called Type 1 Diabetes.
There is no known cause for the development of the disease, though it is thought to be triggered by a traumatic event on the body (such as an illness like chicken pox, in my case). An event like this leads the immune system to destroy the beta cells that produce insulin.
What's a normal blood glucose (BG) reading?
For a non-diabetic, blood glucose levels should range from 70 mg /dL-110 mg/dL. But for those of us with type 1 diabetes, around 100 mg/dL-150 mg/dL are considered normal. Anything below gives risk to hypoglycemia and anything above could result in hyperglycemia where insulin is needed to treat it.
Keeping these levels within this target is important to keep the body functioning properly. If the BG levels resemble a roller coaster, then health risks such as kidney disease, heart disease or diabetic retinopathy can occur.
If you’re outside the United States you probably measure your blood glucose levels differently just like pretty much everything else. The equivalent ranges for those in Europe are 3.9 mmol//L- 6.1mmol/L.
How do you get insulin?
In a properly functioning body, the pancreas is responsible for responding to the presence of glucose in the body and releases insulin. Insulin is produced by beta cells and it takes the glucose and bring it to the muscles to be used as energy.
When an individual has type 1 diabetes, the pancreas is unable to release insulin so instead we must inject ourselves with the correct dosage via syringe or insulin pump.
What's a bolus?
Each time you (assuming you are a non-diabetic and that’s why you’re reading this FAQ page) consume carbohydrates, the body converts those carbs into glucose which then requires your pancreas to shoot out a burst of insulin called a bolus. Your pancreas is slowly releasing insulin through the day (this is called a basal) but as soon as it is introduced to some yummy glucose, the bolus is what will take care of that glucose by unlocking the doors to your muscles where it can enter as energy.
Incase my nutrition professor is going to be reading this and fact checking me, I should note that bolus is also a term used to refer to the food as soon as it enters your mouth up until it enters the stomach where once churned, becomes chyme.
Can T1D's have sugar?
Type 1 diabetics can eat ANYTHING. It is more of a matter of, should we? For example, cake. Cake is great stuff. But it’s full of simple carbohydrates that our bodies process very quickly and can be quite a competitor against the speed of insulin. There are also a lot of foods that are difficult to estimate the carbohydrates of which results in it being just a bit easier for us not to have.
Juice and non-diet sodas are an example of things that I, as a diabetic, normally turn down because though a soda might say it’s 35g of sugar, and I bolus for that amount before I consume it, that bolus of insulin won’t take effect before the sugar in the soda does, resulting in high blood sugar.
Achieving blood glucose homeostasis is important for diabetics and non-diabetics. But getting to homeostasis is more of a challenge when we are responsible for the insulin our body needs instead of depending on our pancreas told do the job for us.